Australian media is failing PNG
The dismissal of ‘Kanaka Jack’ Murray

Ruth Fink Latukefu

In 1960, Dr Ruth Fink, the 28-year old daughter of German Jewish refugees, came to ASOPA. The illustrious anthropologist, Professor AP Elkin, whose course she took over, had referred her. Ruth’s research background was among the Wajarri Aboriginal people of the Murchison region, 450 km north of Perth and an hour’s drive inland from Geraldton.

Ruth was an instant success at ASOPA, where she lectured Cadet Education Officers and Patrol Officers in Anthropology – although, as the following extract from a letter of November 1964 shows, she was a little awed by the hard living kiaps:

“This year lecturing to the Patrol Officers for the first time has made me feel more confident, as they are a very tough group of young men and I expected they would resent having a woman lecturer. They proved very charming and well behaved, even though they are hulking masculine types who drink and swear and lead a rough life.

“A lucky thing happened early in the year, which helped me a lot with them. I had set them an essay and discovered that they were plotting a hoax. Several of them referred to a Dr CJ Blunge, supposedly a famous Belgian anthropologist, who had worked not only in New Guinea but also in Siberia. I started to get suspicious when he was quoted in a number of the essays I was marking and I thought it was a test to see if I was actually reading them.

"I said nothing, but for the next assignment, on their notice board I listed books that they should consult, and scattered among them were several new papers by Herr Blunge (which I had made up). Later I told them that Dr Blunge had been branded a Communist and no further works by him were to be kept in the ASOPA Library.”

Wedding In 1965, Ruth took up an appointment at Sydney University. She had by then met her future husband, Sione Latukefu, a Tongan Methodist Minister who later became a noted Pacific historian.

By 1967 Ruth and Sione were living in Port Moresby and teaching at the new University of Papua New Guinea. Ruth says: “We remained for 18 years... Our time in PNG was an unforgettable part of our lives.”

The full story of Ruth Fink Latukefu can be found in the March issue of The Mail [see ASOPA People Extra].


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